Skip to main content

PhD Research Proposal Guidelines

Your research proposal will provide evidence of your ability to plan and organise independent research, and of the relevance of your research topic to the interests and expertise of a senior academic in the IER who could supervise your study.

Please read and follow the guidelines carefully.

Proposal Format

You should provide approximately 2,000 words, plus your timetable and references or a short bibliography. We do not expect the proposal to be perfect at this stage, nor do we expect you to stick to it very closely as your ideas will almost certainly change once you start to study, but we do expect you to write it as follows:

  • Provide an overview of your research question, explaining why it is of academic and or practical importance
  • Outline the main objectives of your research, providing details of two or three key aspects
  • Write a short literature review, indicating the importance of previous related research and how your own research question might make a useful contribution to the area
  • State the main research techniques (interviews, case studies, modelling, etc.) you might use
  • Indicate your suggested data collection procedures, including sources and any possible difficulties
  • Explain any analytical techniques you intend to use
  • Add your proposed timetable of activities
  • Finally, list the references in your proposal or provide a short bibliography.

It is suggested that your material should be presented under headings similar to the following:

  • Title
  • Research question
  • Objectives
  • Literature review
  • Research techniques
  • References and bibliography

In addition, you may wish to suggest whom you would like to supervise your PhD. However, the allocation of supervisors will depend upon a number of factors, and no guarantee can be given that your suggestion will be accepted.

To summarise:

(a) you need to write to a very tight format stating what you plan to research, why and how; the format is clearly outlined above;

(b) your proposal should have not only substantial empirical content but a strong analytical underpinning; and

(c) it should also have relevance to the IER from a geographical perspective.

While our perspective is international, some overseas students seek to study an issue exclusively in their home country in which our staff have no research expertise. If this is your intention, you must explain clearly why a supervisor at IER might find your work interesting and how being at IER will add value to your work.

The above guidelines match closely those issued by the Warwick Business School, whose procedures for the first year of the Doctoral Programme are followed by IER’s PhD students